After hearing the authour of Crowdsourcing Jeff Howe speak at Electric Artists last night it was easy to make comparisons with some other quasi anthro/sociology books that you might find in the business or marketing section of a bookstore this year. The first would be Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky and to a lesser extent Buying In by Rob Walker. For me personally the most basic of the comparisons is that I’ve now seen all three of them speak. Clay talked by himself at Daylife where I work, Rob was interviewed by Fast Company with PSFK and Jeff spoke at Electric Artists and was interviewed by Marc Schiller. In all three cases the Q & A afterwards was fairly flat. No one would dispute that Clay’s a passionate speaker but for the Rob and Jeff events it became interesting to see where the dialogue was going to be directed with the interviewer. By the time each of the books has been written, printed and delivered a lot of the themes aren’t exactly new. After hearing Rob talk I didn’t really feel that I had heard anything that new while last night I did end up leaving Jeff’s talk with feeling smarter then I walked in.
For the talk last night, some of the main business’s that Jeff referenced were Threadless, iStock photo and Dell. I’ve never bought a Dell nor follow anything that they do so I wasn’t really able to relate to that part of the discussion. I have used iStock photo and as a creative I’ve always hated the idea that people send in free illustration work that a shirt company is making money off of. I’ve always seen it as spec work but these days you rarely hear anyone complain about that – so maybe I’m in the minority that has an issue. In any case, the “crowd” is looking for a task to do and those companies all found a way to bring people into the fold.
Keep in mind that crowd is not some mindless mob – in the case of Doritos and their contest to give airtime for a Superbowl commercial, a majority of the entries came from other professionals. In essence a hybrid of pro-am people that were taking their work in a different direction. You may have also heard of Crowdsourcing b/c of the book contest to design the cover. You can check out the finalists from the UK at www.coversourcing.co.uk/top. What was interesting to hear is that the American version did not publish a cover from outsiders but the publisher decided what was going to work while in the UK an entry was selected. Which was right? Hard to say until the number of books that were sold can be figured out. One thing that became clear is that it’s hard to replicate a successful crowd interaction w/ a business if the conditions aren’t there. Walmart tried to fake it for a while and was called out on it. It seemed like for things to work companies weren’t following a scripted plan and had the confidence to let things open up in unique manner and have a dialogue.